Weather has been the Oak Park Windmills 11U team’s toughest competition this spring. Scheduled to play in eight tournaments over nine weeks, the team had every one of its tournaments shortened by rain and saw almost as many games wiped out by soggy fields.

Fortunately, everything came together at the right time for the Windmills when they returned to Mattoon on June 19-21 for the second consecutive year to take part in the United States Specialty Sports Association state tournament. Last season, as a 10U team, the Windmills placed third at the annual USSSA state tournament. This year, the Windmills reached a higher level of play, outscoring four opponents by a combined score of 42-6, en route to claiming the state championship.

Overall, the Windmills are 10-4 (including a 7-2 in-class record) with 480 ranking points and a power rating of 1219 this season. Kate Norgle, Ella Kuenster, Adrianna Martinez, Brinkley Kita, Lucy Goodwin, Martha Lipic, Cassie Metzger, Maddi Grant, Bailey Nicholoff, Grace Rohrbacher, Jess Hoffman and Arielle Wallace are the players, while John Metzger is the head coach with assistant coaches Brian Kita and Rich Goodwin.

In pool play competition at the state tourney, all games were cancelled due to rain. While heading directly into bracket play can be a challenging task, the Windmills responded beautifully by routing the Oswego Outlaws 17-0 in their opener.

Returning later the same day for a game under the lights, the Windmills held off the Naperville Diamonds 8-5 to remain in the championship bracket.

After another rainstorm and subsequent delay, the Windmills returned early on the final day of the tournament to shutout the Blue Wave TH team 6-0, advancing to the championship game. The Windmills squared off against the Naperville Diamonds (again) but this time for the title.

Scattering 10 hits over four innings and backed by superb defense and solid pitching, the Windmills slowly pulled away from the Diamonds. After putting up five runs in the second inning, the Windmills continued to add to their lead until Maddi Grant clinched the game with a shot to left center that extended the Windmills’ leada to 11-1.

“We’ve been playing tough 12U teams all season long to get ready for this [state tournament],” John Metzger said. “I’m really proud of how well all of the girls played. This was a truly a team effort. It was a lot of fun to watch the game slow down for our players to the point where they made almost everything look effortless.”

The team batted .444 for the weekend, as Kate Norgle and Jess Hoffman led the charge with .727 and .700 batting averages, respectively. Grant led the team with 9 RBIs, while Hoffman and Bailey Nicholoff each had six. With help from catcher Lucy Goodwin, Cassie Metzger picked up all four wins for the Windmills, striking out 14 batters in 16 innings. On the last day of the tournament, she was remarkably efficient, throwing 97 pitches in 10 innings of work, while also helping herself with nine assists.

“I knew we were going all the way when right fielder Brinkley Kita picked up a ball in right field, and without hesitation, tossed it to second base, sparking a rundown with the batter who was trying to take an extra base on an ball that our third baseman uncharacteristically had overthrown,” John Metzger said. “When the team executed the rundown perfectly, I knew we had found our groove. The girls picked each other up and got the job done.”

By winning the state championship in Mattoon, the team earned a bid to the USSSA World Series in Des Moines, Iowa in July. The victory also lifted the Windmills’ national power ranking. As of June 23, the Windmills are currently listed as the third best 11U team in the U.S. and Canada, according to USSSA. The Oklahoma Heat from Moore, Okla., and Heartland Havoc from Moline, Ill., are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the Fast Pitch Girls 11 & Under National Rankings.

The Oak Park Windmills (http://www.oakparkwindmills.org) field teams from 8U through 18U and will hold tryouts during the first week in August (Aug. 3-9).

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